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The Daily Tar Heel

Democrats win majority of statewide votes, but a minority of seats


Although the Democratic Party received the majority of votes statewide for both the state Senate and state House, the Republican Party still holds the majority in both N.C. chambers for the next two-year cycle. 

Although they lost the statewide vote for both chambers of the General Assembly, Republicans will hold onto 29 out of 50 seats in the N.C. Senate and 66 out of 120 seats in the N.C. House.

Despite losing the popular vote in both state legislative chambers, State House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, both Republicans, released a statement claiming success in response to the midterm election results.

“North Carolina voters issued a clear mandate to continue Republican policies that are benefiting the workforce, improving schools and delivering a pro-jobs agenda for families,” Moore and Berger said in their joint statement. “We appreciate the strong support of our constituents and look forward to continuing our successful approach to making North Carolina the very best state in the nation.”

Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, said the 2018 midterms saw historic turnout. 

“The 52.4 percent turnout by registered voters was the highest in a midterm election since 1990,” he said.

The NCSBE also made efforts to ensure that victims of Hurricane Florence were not prevented from voting

"This agency spent $400,000 in late October/early November on TV, radio, newspaper, online and social media advertising reminding voters in eastern North Carolina of their voting options," Gannon said. "The General Assembly provided that funding in hurricane recovery legislation.”

But despite the unusually high turnout, the gerrymandered legislative maps prevented results from matching the votes.

“Districts were redrawn after the 2010 U.S. Census, as is customary, to reflect population shifts,” Gannon said. “There have been modifications to the congressional districts and state legislative districts since then as a result of litigation.”

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a nonpartisan group that focuses on election enforcement and fairness, said North Carolina saw the effects of gerrymandering in the 2018 midterm election. 

"We have 13 congressional seats in North Carolina, and one party took 10, and the other party took three, and yet the vote share overall was about 50-50 across the state," Phillips said. "To us, that’s an egregious example of what partisan gerrymandering does — it protects the incumbents of the majority party that draws the maps.

Common Cause has filed lawsuits in an attempt to overturn North Carolina’s legislative maps. 

“The Common Cause v. Rucho case was the very first federal court in North Carolina to ever consider and rule favorably in a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit,” Phillips said. “And the challenge we’ve just filed on Tuesday of this week, which is Common Cause v. Lewis, is the first partisan gerrymandering challenge on state legislative maps to be filed ever in any court in North Carolina. So it has a bit of history to it as well.”

Phillips said Common Cause is trying to educate the public and force the General Assembly to pass redistricting reform by the 2020 general election.

While Democrats received 50 percent of the votes for the N.C. Senate, they received only 42 percent of seats. And while they received 50.5 percent of the votes for the N.C. House, they received only 45 percent of seats. 

“In our minds, this speaks to the fact that lines are drawn to protect the party in power. Democrats did it when they were in charge, Republicans are doing it,” Phillips said. "You have an energized base of, in this instance Democratic voters, (and) the Democratic party still could not even the seats, or much less take the chamber, even though they enjoyed a majority of the votes."

Although Phillips spoke out against the disproportional outcome of the 2018 election in North Carolina, he clarified that his organization’s motivations are not partisan. 

“Common Cause is not an organization that is focused on the outcome of elections, but we are focused on the process, and we feel like we have a broken process that produces a bad outcome," Phillips said. "North Carolina, legitimately and truly, is a highly competitive political state that is purple in its hue, not red and not blue. And yet, the congressional and legislative delegations don’t reflect that.”


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